COLUMBUS — What J.T. Barrett did during the fourth quarter of Ohio State’s 39-38 win over Penn State on Saturday was the football equivalent of a walk-off home run.
A grand slam walk off home run.
Barrett hit 13 of 13 passes in the fourth quarter and threw three touchdown passes in the final 12 minutes to lead the Buckeyes to an improbable comeback in a game they had to win to keep their hopes of reaching the College Football Playoff alive.
Barrett (33 of 39 for 328 yards and four touchdowns) hit his last 16 passes and also was Ohio State’s leading rusher.
When OSU coach Urban Meyer was asked if this was Barrett’s best game, he said, “I can think of some great ones. I’d probably put this as 1A or 1B. Michigan State in 2014 was one of those days like he had today. But this is one of the best I’ve ever seen a quarterback play.”
Three years ago as a redshirt sophomore, Barrett finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting. He was one spot ahead of Jameis Winston and three ahead of the man who became the Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback as a rookie last season, Dak Prescott.
Since 2014, he has not been mentioned as a Heisman candidate. But if he plays like he did Saturday and Ohio State continues to win, he might be among the leading candidates.
Winning it might be a long shot, but he could get into the conversation. He has 25 touchdown passes and only one interception this season and has thrown 21 TDs without an interception during Ohio State’s 6-game winning streak.
Meyer said thinking Barrett is a Heisman candidate is reasonable, even if he stopped short of actually using the word “Heisman.”
“I think the H-word is appropriate after today’s game,” Meyer said.
Barrett was a lightning rod for criticism when Ohio State’s offense, especially its deep passing game, struggled early this season.
Some fans and columnists suggested OSU’s back-up QBs, Dwayne Haskins and Joe Burrow, should get more playing time.
Anyone who knows anything about coaches, especially ones as successful as Meyer, realizes they do not care what anyone outside their locker room and their coaches offices says.
Meyer described his version of this attitude this way on Saturday: “With all due respect to the people who had that opinion, inside the Woody Hayes facility there wasn’t any opinion. There was zero conversation about that discussion.
“I hear people say, ‘Oh, there were a lot of people who thought … There was not one time I walked into a staff meeting and said, ‘What do you guys think about what the fans and media think about J.T.?’”
“He’s tough as a lion and he has an incredible ability to lead others,” Meyer said
Barrett’s response to a question about his critics earlier this season was similar to his coach’s.
“I’m in a great spot right now, my senior year being the starting quarterback at Ohio State. I love the guys in the locker room. That’s what I focus on, I don’t really focus on the critiques that people have to say about me. Everybody is allowed to have their opinion. It’s something that doesn’t really affect me. I’m just grateful for the position God has put me in.”
Defensive end Sam Hubbard said Barrett’s performance against Penn State was no surprise to him or his teammates.
“I just saw what we see every day – consistency. He played outstanding. He just is so mentally tough and such a great leader. I don’t know if a lot of people could handle what he goes through and never bat an eye and still be such a great leader.”
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.